Monitor mice now to prevent crop damage

27 Apr, 2010 01:03 PM
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Growers in Western Australia’s Mid West and South Coast regions are urged to monitor mice activity in paddocks, with concerns the pests could damage early sown crops.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) officers have confirmed with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) that seasonal conditions have led to high mouse numbers in the Mid West this autumn.

Commercial agronomists have confirmed with the GRDC that localised parts of the South Coast region – including coastal areas west of Esperance - are also affected by mice activity, especially where hail damage left feed on the ground.

GRDC crop protection manager Rohan Rainbow said farmers should consider altering their sowing techniques and monitoring newly-sown crops for mice damage.

“Commercial mice baits can also be an effective option to treat paddocks and control mice numbers,” he said.

“We recommend that farmers consult their local agronomist or pesticide retailer, who can provide expert advice about the costs and benefits of various forms of mice management and the most suitable products.

“Dry sown and newly emerged crops in particular are susceptible to mouse damage.

“Mice can dig up seed and eat cotyledons from crops such as canola and lupins at emergence.

“Farmers need to monitor individual paddocks and use strategies to minimise mouse damage, including baiting where mice are present and using seeding techniques that reduce the risk of mice predation on seed.”

Key messages to growers include:

  • Seeding is starting in some areas so monitoring is essential;
  • Do not bait inactive holes – check the need for baiting;
  • Follow label directions for the use of zinc phosphide baits;
  • Increase seeding rates if necessary to compensate for losses from mouse predation;
  • Increase seeding depth if necessary (within crop emergence/productivity limits) and consider the risks of predation if dry seeding;
  • Check all unbaited, newly sown crops regularly, especially one or two days after seeding, for signs of mouse damage;
  • Think on a whole-farm basis – mice vary in density between different areas so not all paddocks are affected;
  • Pay particular attention to areas where harvesting efficiency was poor last year and residual grain is on the ground; and
  • Be aware that modest mouse numbers can persist and cause damage at several stages.

“Farmers needing information can access current pest management materials through the GRDC’s Pestlinks website at www.grdc.com.au/pestlinks,” Dr Rainbow said.

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